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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Arrests in Brussels Terror Attack; Democratic Candidates Fight over Qualifications; Bill Clinton Confronts Black Lives Matter Protesters; Trump Hires Manafort to Get Delegates as Republicans Battle for N.Y. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 8, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:32] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Continuing to follow breaking news out of Belgium. A federal prosecutor in Belgium saying several arrests have been made in connection with Brussels terror attacks.

CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is in D.C. with new details coming.

Jim, what are you picking up?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We are learning of new arrests in Belgium connected to the Paris attacks and also to the recent attacks in Belgium. The question now is the identities of who has been arrested. On this search has been the man in the hat. We talked a lot about that yesterday as Belgian police released that surveillance video showing the man seen with two of the suicide bombers inside the airport. He left the airport. You're seeing pictures of those on your screen. They followed him for two hours trail. His identity unknown.

We don't know if the arrests are connected to that man. Another question mark, Mohamed Abrini. He's been wanted since the Paris attacks. He drove Salah Abdeslam, to Paris and then left Paris with him after those attacks spotted on surveillance video. He has been very much at the top of the list for searches for Belgian and French authorities. The Belgian state broadcaster giving more details as they come` we're told by our own sources that it's premature to say who the identities are of the latest arrests. We'll be following the story throughout the day. The key question is Mohamed Abrini among those taken in by Belgian authorities today. That's the question we're seeking clarity on today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, Mohamed Abrini, we've seen him in pictures with Salah Abdeslam before the Paris attacks. What is the ignorance, other than the connection of Abdeslam? Is he believed to be a planner or operator for ISIS in Europe?

SCIUTTO: That's the question. How much of a planner. He's connected to more than Salah Abdeslam. He was known to have driven him to Paris before the attacks and seen after the attacks as well. He also had a connection to the apartment where two of the suicide attackers from the Paris attacks stayed, a safe house, before they carried out the attacks. He has multiple ties to the Paris attackers. Of course the fact that he was arrested in Belgium raises the question does he have ties to the Brussels attackers as well, because not to get confusing here for the viewers, but the Paris attackers came many of them came from Belgium, and the question has been what is the connection between the Paris attacks in November and this attack in Brussels. Is Abrini someone who connects those two? This is a key question for investigators right now in these arrests. Very important to that investigation.

BOLDUAN: The web of these attackers, the web of these people involved, it's complex, but it continues to get more and more arrests and more and more details coming out. We're waiting for more information. We'll stay close to it.

Jim, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Back to our conversation. Just moments ago, we spoke with Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, and he told us Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president but in a narrow sense of a resume, and that the Sanders' campaign is actively preparing for a contested convention.

BERMAN: Joining us to respond, Karen Finney, the senior spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Karen, you were laughing at what Jeff said, that narrowly defined Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president. Why do you find that so amusing?

[11:35:04] KAREN FINNEY, SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Yeah. He sure parsed that, didn't he? You asked him several ways and he kept parsing it. This started with reports that the Sanders campaign was testing attack lines against Hillary Clinton, that he talked about the Jeff Zeleny report. Hillary never said that. No one in our campaign said that. She never said he was unqualified. I find the parsing of words, I feel like they saw that it wasn't working and now they're working their way back. I mean, you can say a lot of things about Hillary Clinton but unqualified seems like a stretch. I guess they're trying to work it back.

BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton never said he was unqualified, but she also has not said he is qualified. I mean, so why is she dancing around this question? Same thing that we asked Jeff Weaver. Bernie Sanders this morning said she's qualified. Then Jeff Weaver wanted to give caveats. Why is Hillary Clinton dancing around this?

FINNEY: I think we think it's ridiculous that this is the conversation we're having.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Only because you guys are dancing around it.

FINNEY: It's not. The way this started -- (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Hang on. It's at this point right now, and this morning Clinton still wouldn't say, yes, Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president. It's a simple yes or no question. Does she think he's qualified to be president, yes or no?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: OK, go ahead.

FINNEY: You asked me a question. Let me answer. Here's the thing. She believes that -- as she said, it's for the voters to decide. It's like the conversation Jeff brought in about who is a progressive. Who is Bernie Sanders to define who is a progressive? Particularly when Hillary Clinton was fighting for equal women's pay in the '90s, when it was seen as a side issue. Why does he get to decide who is or is?

Now, to the point of the substance of it, the question that he was asked in the "Daily News" editorial board specifically, for example, on breaking up the banks, this has been his single issue for years. And when he was asked, how would you do it, he kind of said I hadn't really thought about it. Then the day he was asked how do you break up the big banks? Those people go and get other jobs. I think to say that doesn't sound like a well thought-out answer, that's a different issue than who decides who is qualified.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: This is parsing. You won't be a yes/no. You gave us a minute explanation about why you're not giving us a yes/no.

FINNEY: Again, voters get to decide who is qualified. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both in agreement that we need to be focused on Trump and Cruz. I mean, that is where I think the real risk is in terms of where we go in this country. But, look, if they want to attack, that's fine. Hillary is going to be in upstate New York today talking about jobs. That's what people care about.

BOLDUAN: It is impressive how you guys are all saying exactly the same thing and just changing the subject, changing the target of the conversation. Hillary Clinton called it a silly statement. We can agree, it's silly season. And the candidates could put it to rest in a minute.

But let's talk about substance.

FINNEY: That would be awesome.

BOLDUAN: Deal. But this is going to continue to be a question until you put it to rest. Black Lives Matter protests before Bill Clinton was holding a rally, and he took them on very emotionally. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens.

(CHEERING)

CLINTON: She didn't. She didn't.

(CHEERING)

CLINTON: You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: This clearly got under his skin. I mean, it's clearly -- you saw he was emotional about it. Does Secretary Clinton agree with what Bill Clinton said? Previously, she's apologized for her wording back then.

FINNEY: I think where he was trying to go was reiterating what she said. She has said she shouldn't have used the word "super predator." She wouldn't again. But at the time she was talking about drug cartels and violent crime. I think that's what -- using different language, I think that's where he was trying to go, talking about what's happening in the '90s in that context. He just did an event in upstate New York and expressed regret about how that actually went down. And I think what's important is --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: At this event.

FINNEY: President Clinton has said time and again he understands that the crime bill went too far. He understands --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: He has.

[11:39:48] FINNEY: He understands there were unintended consequences that we have to deal with now.

Here's what I want to talk about. We can keep re-litigating the '90s, but I think what happens is I want to know what's going to happen now. I want a president with a plan like Hillary Clinton that says let's deal with ending the era of mass incarceration and how we change the dynamic between the police and the communities they serve. She's the only person in this campaign who has not only put forward a comprehensive plan, but also how to invest in the African-American community, and he's been out talking about systemic racism, white privilege and other issues we're still grappling with as a community. I think Bill Clinton said what he said -- again, he has tried to make clear what he meant by that, but I think this is -- this should be a race about the people who are running for president now. And one thing I thought was convenient, Jeff Weaver, in re-attacking

Hillary on that issue, always likes to neglect that Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill. He likes to say there was assault weapons ban in there, but that's part of what President Clinton said too. If we're going to talk about what happened in the era of mass incarceration, there's more to talk about. I say, Bill Clinton has tried to make clear that he recognizes the damage that was done. And I think even more importantly, when she got to the Senate, when she had a vote, because she couldn't vote when the crime bill was first passed, she got to work on things like ending racial profiling and changing sentencing disparities. I don't know what Senator Sanders was doing while she was working on that. They talk about how he was arrested in the '60s, but that matters too.

BERMAN: We'll ask him next time we see him that very question.

Karen Finney, thank you for coming. I expect we'll see you again up until April 19th when the voting happens.

FINNEY: You bet. I hope so.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Karen.

BERMAN: Thanks, Karen.

FINNEY: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: One programming note. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will face off in a Democratic presidential debate live from Brooklyn. That is next Thursday, April 14th. It's right here on CNN.

BERMAN: Going to breaking news right now. One of the suspects arrested today -- no -- one of the suspects arrested today may be connected to the attacks in Paris. Sources are telling us something different about that. We'll get it clear and come back.

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[11:46:40] BOLDUAN: Back to our breaking news out of Belgium. A federal prosecutor saying several arrests made in connection with the Brussels terror attacks.

Let's bring in CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, this is all kinds of things unfolding as we speak, these arrests being made. We don't know the number. Some question about, of course, who the people are who have been arrested. What are you picking up?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I just spoke to a senior Belgium counterterrorism official. They say they are hopeful that one of the people that was arrested earlier today is Mohamed Abrini, one of the Paris attackers or part of that conspiracy, because he is believed to have driven the Paris attackers from Belgium to Paris in the 48 hours after the attack. They're hopeful they have him in custody, but they don't have certainty that he's in custody. When you take someone like that, a terrorist suspect into custody, they don't have their name written across their face. They have to verify this through fingerprint analysis and DNA, through other methods. They need to absolutely sure they have the right guy. With this terror cell, we've seen people using disguises, fake identities. They want to be absolutely sure they've got him before making a public announce want, but they are certainly hopeful at this $, point that they do, indeed, have him in custody. He was one of the two most wanted men in Europe because of his links to this Brussels/Paris attack style links he had inside Europe.

BERMAN: Just to be crystal clear, we said arrests made in connection with Brussels terrorist attacks, but Mohamed Abrini, known to be around Paris before the attacks in Paris with Salah Abdeslam at a gas station just two days before the attacks in a car that was believed to be used in attacks. Is he connected to one or both?

CRUICKSHANK: It's the same cell that carried out both attacks. This is the same group of men who were all working together, all based in and around Brussels in the weeks before the Paris attacks. The remaining part of the cell a few months later then carried out the Brussels attacks. And that, remember, was just a few days after Salah Abdeslam and another co-conspirator were brought into custody. There's optimism because they have more dangerous men in custody, they think. But also concern because there may be other people at large who fear the dragnet is coming closer to them. We saw what happened when Salah Abdeslam was arrested. That's a concern of authorities.

BOLDUAN: Let's add to the conversation. Let's add CNN's national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, what are you picking up from your sources? What are you hearing from the U.S.? The significance? This seems very significant. Something Belgium as wanted and needed was to pick up more of the suspects. There are a lot of people out there they're looking for.

[11:49:46] SCIUTTO: The potential significance is tying the attacks together. Now, they're tied to some degree because we know that Brussels, and Belgium has been a hot bed of jihadiism. That's where many of them traveled into Paris. You have that potential connection. One question being raised now as they look for certainty that this is the man in the hat the man that walked away from the Brussels airport after the suicide attacks there, which would be a further connection. We already know the Belgian state broadcaster says one of those arrested today was seen with the Brussels subway attacker, so had a connection there. The question is do you then connect these two severe, some of the worse attacks in Europe in years, Paris and Brussels, with these arrests today? That would be significant.

BERMAN: Paul, has there been talks that Mohamed Abrini was the guy at the airport or subway?

CRUICKSHANK: They don't know exactly was the guy at the airport, in the light jacket. If they knew that, they wouldn't have had to put that out to identify him. They did not know that a few days ago that the Belgian prosecutor was on record saying we don't know who this guy is. So obviously Mohamed Abrini is a potential suspect who may have been that but they have no concrete information as of a few days ago that was the case. Another person at large still connected to this Brussels Paris style, an individual named Mohammad who came through Greek islands, many of the other attackers and was picked up by Salah Abdeslam from a refugee center in Germany and brought in to the Belgium. He is believed to be operationally involved in the Brussels attacks themselves. Not clear if he might have been one of the people who were arrested today. Mohammad was considered to be a fake. We will try to find out more in the minutes ahead.

BERMAN: Paul, stick around. When these arrests happen, there is an experience, these tend to be big events, and we learn more quickly. Let us know the minute you hear more.

Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Paul.

BERMAN: Also, we have breaking news out of Texas as well. We are told by a Pentagon official that the shooting at Lackland Air Force Base was an airman, who I believe shot his squadron commander. The condition not yet confirmed. What we know there's two people are dead. We will get more information.

Back in a moment.

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[11:54:42] BOLDUAN: This week's "CNN Hero" is taking on a very sad face of poverty on the beautiful shores of San Diego. Look here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARA FISHER, CNN HERO: When you are in the fifth grade and they come on our field trip they come over the hill on the bus and see the ocean and they gasp. Because it's literally the first time many of them have ever seen the ocean. It's a place of discovery to really explore their own potential in science through studying the ocean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Each year, this "CNN Hero," this group helps 6,000 children become explorers. To watch her story and many others, go to CNN.com/heroes. Remember, you can nominate someone who you think should be included in the list of 2017 "CNN Heroes".

BERMAN: News just in to CNN. CNN is going to host a town hall with Donald Trump anchored by Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, at 9:00 p.m. Donald Trump will be joined by members of his family. We are also looking to have similar events with all of the other candidates, as well. Again, Donald Trump with his family this Tuesday night, 9:00 p.m., here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: We continue our discussion on politics right now. Let's bring in our panel, former campaign adviser to Mitt Romney, Stuart Stevens; and Scottie Nell Hughes, national political commentator for USA Radio Network and a Donald Trump supporter; and Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Guys, get to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Our show has been busy with a lot. So let's get back where we began the show, talking about the new hire that Donald Trump made, Paul Manafort.

Stuart, I want to ask you about this.

He said he answers to Trump and Trump alone. From your perspective of being involved in campaigns, if he answers to Trump and Trump alone what does that mean for the relationship with the other guy who is supposed to answer to Trump and Trump alone, his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. For those who haven't been on the inside, what does it mean?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISOR TO MITT ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Donald Trump just hired Corey Lewandowski, the first campaign manager in the history of national politics to be up on battery charges. He is way over his head. Never been involved in a serious campaign and this is a big-time presidential campaign. He should get rid of the guy and not defend him for going after journalists. It is disgusting what Trump did.

Paul Manafort is a seasoned professional, a smart guy. I think he will help Donald Trump. This is make-or-break for Donald Trump. He has to get to 1237. If he doesn't go in to Cleveland with 1237, it is doubtful he will come out as the nominee for the party. Manafort is a good person to turn to for this.

BERMAN: Doug Heye, can it work if you have two guys who think they're running things? Does this spell more chaos for Trump?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It might. To Stuart's point, what really matters is, if Trump doesn't get the 1237 is the convention and the delegates and the state party chairs and the RNC members, and the challenge the Trump campaign faces is Ted Cruz has spent two years working every one of those members, every state party chair. The Trump campaign is just getting to know those people and that puts you at a disadvantage.

BOLDUAN: Scottie, I want you to weigh in on this. To Doug's point, speaking to CNN he did concede if they get to the convention and they get to a second or third ballot, he says Cruz is playing a clever game and seems like he was conceding Cruz's ground game is working. That's what they have to fight against.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, USA RADIO NETWORK: I think Senator Cruz's ground game is working. However, if we get a second or third ballot, it is trouble for the Cruz campaign as much as the Trump campaign can. You cannot ignore the fact that you are seeing a lot of happiness from the establishment at the idea of the brokered convention. They are excited at the thought of a brokered convention. This is why you see more delegates starting to talk, saying if we go to a brokered convention, there's a good chance neither one of us may have the nomination coming out.

BERMAN: Stuart --

(CROSSTALK)

HEYE: Kate, John, I was at the Republican National Convention this week. No one is happy going in to a brokered convention. There are no smoke-filled rooms. It would be an open convention but no one is happy with that scenario.

BERMAN: You think it brokered is a four-lettered word. But if it is contested there will be a number of people brokering.

Stuart, I want to get quick take on the Democrats. We have 45 seconds left. I know you don't think Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton are qualified, but what do you make of the debate they are having that they are. Is this good when they go after each other like this?

STEVENS: I think they are both qualified to be president of the United States. I think the debate should be about who should be president of the United States.

What's remarkable here, if you look at the hot messes of the last 24 hours of the Democratic party, that we have a Socialist for the first time in U.S. history challenging the leading power structure of the Democratic party. And that's not the leading story. The leading story is Donald Trump has 70 percent unfavorables. You have this moment where you have both parties who would elect, possibly nominate the most unpopular candidate that's running in their primary. It's absolutely bizarre.

BERMAN: Stuart, Doug, Scottie, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

STEVENS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all for joining us on this busy Friday. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: "Legal View" starts now.